- January 20 down the years
Safety guru announces retirementWhat happened on January 20 in Formula One history?
Professor Sid Watkins, the driving force behind the improvement in medical care at race tracks across the world, announced his retirement after 26 years as the FIA's medical delegate. He oversaw massive improvements in trackside facilities and safety, and proved a huge favourite in the paddock. A great friend of Senna's, he considered retiring after the fatal accident at Imola in 1994. Roland Ratzenberger had been killed in practice the previous day and Watkins advised the distraught Senna that he should quit racing there and then, on the eve of his own death. "He was silent," Watkins said. "I went on, 'I don't think the risk is worth continuing; pack it in.' He gave me a very steady look and, now calm, said, 'Sid, there are certain things over which we have no control. I cannot quit. I have to go on.' Those were the last words he ever said to me." Watkins passed away in 2012, with Jackie Stewart remarking at his memorial service: "'Unfortunately I've been to far too many memorial services. But I would have been to many more were it not for the Prof".
Ayrton Senna escaped injury after his Williams-Renault span off during a practice session in Portugal. "I braked and the wheels locked," Senna said. "The car spun round and I stopped against the wall of safety tyres. These things happen in Formula One. I wasn't hurt at all."
Norberto Fontana was born in Arrecifes, Argentina. He drove for Sauber for four races in 1997, standing in for the injured Gianni Morbidelli. He moved to the Argentinian touring car championship where he continued to enjoy success and he also took part in the Dakar rally.
Giorgio Bassi was born in Milan; he raced in the Italian Grand Prix in 1965. His engine expired after eight laps, along with his F1 career.